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Macadamia Nuts
King of Keto Nuts

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Quick Summary tl;dr

Macadamia are the lowest carb nut, lowest in anti-nutrients, and lowest in omega-6 fat.

Macadamia are an excellent source of the omega-7 fat, palmitoleic acid. This fat-hormone can block inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase satiety.

Eating just 15 to 30 macadamia per day can increase HDL and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.

Macadamia nuts are the King of Nuts, a snack fit for royalty! Maybe it’s not a coincidence that England’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest reigning living monarch, purportedly eats a handful a day. Here’s why we count macadamia one of our seven New Mediterranean Diet superfoods together with salmon & other fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado & avocado oil, dark chocolate & cacao, sesame and coconut.

Carbs in Macadamia Nuts

Per ounce (28 gram) serving, macadamia only contain 1.5 grams of net carbs, and are less than 3% carbs by calories.

Other very low carb nuts include pecans, brazil nuts, and walnuts, but none of those can match macadamia’s fat profile, which we will get to below. And, as a keto caution, you should know that cashews are 19% calories by carbs.

Not all nuts are equal when it comes to following a low-carb diet. Macadamias are 3% calories from carbs vs cashews 19% calories from carbs!

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Anti-Nutrients in Nuts

Most nuts are rich in phytic acid, oxalates, and/or lectins.

Phytic acid binds essential minerals in your gut, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. It can impair mineral absorptions and contribute to constipation in some individuals.

Oxalates are known for contributing to the formation of kidney stones, but they can have other negative effects too. Some scientists believe that autoimmune reactions brought on by oxalates can contribute to thyroid disorders and other conditions.

Lectins can contribute to increase gut permeability and inflammation in sensitive people. They can impair mineral absorption and contribute to the symptoms of gas, bloating, and even nausea and vomiting when eaten in high enough amounts.

This article isn’t the one to do a deep dive on plant anti-nutrients, but suffice it to say that it makes sense plants would have chemical defences. If you were a nut, and couldn’t run from your predator, wouldn’t you want a to defend yourself against getting eaten?

As you probably guessed, macadamia are the exception!

Unlike basically all other nuts, which are rich in at least one of the above anti-nutrients (phytic acid, oxalates or lectins), macadamia nuts are low in all three! Their defence from predation comes in the form of the hardest nutshell in the world. It takes 531 pounds (241 kg) of force to break a macadamia nut's shell! ( Schüler et al, 2014)

Unlike all other nuts, which are rich in at least one anti-nutrient (phytic acid, oxalates or lectins), macadamia nuts are low in all three!

The Plant Anti-Nutrient Controversy

Plant anti-nutrients are a controversial and, in our opinion, understudied subject. Some people are almost certainly more sensitive than others and, as most vegetables contain some form of anti-nutrient, it may not be practical to try to eliminate them from your diet entirely, unless you go carnivore. Anti-nutrients should be a consideration as you tailor your diet to you as an individual.

Fat Profile: Omega-6

Excess intake of omega-6 fats can contribute to inflammation and to metabolic diseases. Omega-6 fats compete with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and an increased omega-6/3 ratio increases the risk for obesity. ( Simopoulos, 2016) What’s more, data from genetically engineered mice have shown that having an increased omega-6/3 ratio can contribute to poor health, even independent of dietary manipulation. ( Kaliannan et al, 2019)

While it’s hard to make the argument that any raw nut would be unhealthy — and we are not making that claim — many individuals looking to optimize their metabolic health choose to moderate their omega-6 intake, including from nuts.

Most nuts are rich in omega-6 but macadamia nuts are an exception. Walnuts contain the most omega-6, a surprising 10,800 mg of linoleic acid per ounce (28 grams). An entire serving of macadamia nuts contains less omega-6 than a single walnut.

Not all nuts are equal when it comes to their fat profile. An entire serving of macadamia contains less omega-6 than a single walnut!

Fat Profile: Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)

Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are lauded for being healthy fats. They’re more stable than polyunsaturated fats, have hormonal signaling properties, and are the ‘healthy fat’ in extra virgin olive oil and avocados.

But I bet you didn’t know that macadamia oil is the richest natural source of MUFA! Macadamia oil is 80% MUFA, which is even higher than extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.

Macadamia nut oil is 80% monounsaturated fats, making it the richest natural source of MUFA!

Fat Profile: The Rare Omega-7

You’ve heard of omega-6 and omega-3 and maybe even omega-9 fats, but have you heard of omega-7 fat? Probably not. That’s because they are relatively rare in nature and are primarily found in macadamia nuts!

The omega-7 fat, palmitoleic acid (not to be confused with the saturated fat, palmitic acid), is itself a MUFA and makes up 20% of macadamia’s fat.

Palmitoleic acid isn’t just a fat-fuel, but a hormone. In 2008, a landmark paper ( Cao et al, 2008) was published in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, Cell, defining a new class of hormones called “lipokines” after discovering some of (dietary/exogenous) palmitoleic acid’s powerful health-promoting effects.

Here's why dietary palmitoleic acid may be good for you:

  • Palmitoleic acid may decrease de novo lipogenesis, the creation of new fat, in the liver by inhibiting the protein SCD-1. ( Cao et al, 2008)
  • Palmitoleic acid can quell inflammation by inhibiting the master genetic regulator of inflammation, NFkB. ( Souza et al, 2017)
  • Palmitoleic acid may improve pancreatic 𝛽-cell survival, insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity. ( Nunes et al, 2017)
  • Palmitoleic acid can reduce hunger because it is especially good at raising levels of the fullness hormone, cholecystokinin. ( Yang et al, 2013)

We could go on, but you get the point. Palmitoleic acid that makes macadamia mac-nificent.

Palmitoleic acid from macadamias can inhibit production of new fat, block inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase satiety.

Macadamia Study and Cholesterol

A four-week human interventional trial found that eating just 15 to 30 macadamia nuts per day for four weeks significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, increased HDL cholesterol, and lowered markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. ( Garg et al, 2003,  Garg et al, 2007)

Eating 15 to 30 macadamia nuts per day for a month has been shown to decrease blood markers of oxidative stress and inflammation.

Roasting Nuts

Roasting nuts is a tricky business. If you like roasted nuts, we think it best to roast your own nuts at home using temperatures at or below 265 - 285 F (130 - 140 C) for 20 minutes.

The temperature sensitivity of nuts derives from their fragile omega-6 fats. But because macadamia nuts are low in omega-6, they are more stable. Even at 150 °C/ 300 °F, macadamia are okay. In fact, if you roast equal amounts of macadamia and walnuts at 300 F, the macadamia will end up with 1/30th the oxidized fats! ( Schlörmann et al, 2015)

Cooking with Macadamia Oil

Because macadamia oil is low in omega-6, it’s more stable than oil from other nuts. Macadamia oil has a smoke point of 210 °C/ 410 °F, which is even higher than coconut oil or butter. Therefore, it can be used for cooking by those choosing to eat a diet that’s both low in saturated fat and omega-6.

Macadamia Nut Pesto Recipe

Here’s an awesome recipe for Macadamia Basil Pesto from our latest cookbook, The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook!

Macadamia Nuts - King of Keto Nuts

Ingredients & Instructions

  • 2 cups (30 g/1.1 oz) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (67 g/2.4 oz) macadamia nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (30 g/1.1 oz) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and black pepper

Just put all the ingredients in a food processor and enjoy!

Serve with some zucchini noodles and roast salmon and lemon wedges. Here's why wild Alaskan sockeye salmon is your best choice!

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Dr. Nicholas Norwitz
PhD in Ketogenics and Metabolism, Oxford University

Nicholas Notwitz

Dr. Nicholas Norwitz is a new shining star in nutrition science. This 25-year-old Ivy League Valedictorian obtained his PhD at Oxford University in just two years and is now pursing his MD at Harvard Medical School. His research expertise is ketosis and brain aging; however, he has published scientific papers on topics ranging from neuroscience to heart disease to gastrointestinal health to genetics to bone health to diabetes.

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Comments (25)

If I were to replace basil by coriander in this recipe, would you suggest any other alterations to getting the right taste?
I made this pesto without cheese and felt the taste to be little bitter because of the basil. Is it normal as I didn't add cheese to make it?

If you like coriander, go for it! Here's a similar recipe I've tested and tastes great: Homemade Cilantro Pesto
Some people may prefer it without the cheese but I think it's good with it.

How long would the above pesto last in fridge?

Two weeks for sure, maybe more. I usually store just some of it in the fridge and freeze the rest in an ice tray. Make sure you always have the top covered with a layer of olive oils this will prevent it from getting mouldy.

Would you suggest organic macadamia over conventional ones or the pesticides/insecticides aren't much of an issue for the health?

I’m not aware of any literature that organic macadamia have a particular benefit over non-organic in terms of human health. Certainly not in the “dirty dozen.” The economic and environmental issues are interesting and a real internet rabbit hole.

Are cooking sprays even healthy? If not, could you tell us why?

I only use my own spray dispenser filled with olive or avocado oil. The brands of cooking oil I've seen use additional ingredients and the quality of the oil itself (even if it's the only ingredient) is questionable too.

Olivado's Extra virgin macadamia oil costs 64$ and 1 kg of whole nuts is costing 37$. Could you help us understand if macadamia oil is a better bang for the buck than whole nuts?

Not sure if you have a typo because I've never seen $64 macadamia oil. Maybe more like $20/16.9 ounces. Commented more on price below. Generally, when you buy in bulk and do out the math, it's not as bad as you think (e.g. 48cents/100kCal). Certainly not accessible to everyone, but then again many foods are not.

I buy Olivado's as it seems to be the best one out there : https://www.olivado.com/en-us/product/macadamia-oil-extra-virgin. 250 ml bottle is $16 and they don't seem to be giving in bulk, like a 3L bottle unfortunately. Please do let me know if you get it cheaper elsewhere, I will look it up.

So you mean price per Liter oil if you were to buy in 250 mL bottles? Ah, I see. Yes, pricey relative to most other oils, but on par with good EVOO. All that said, I see you found a solution below, right? I do like applying that math to a food budget because for those on keto who tend to get satiated my well-formulated low carb high-fat diets it generally tends to better represent what you’d be spending. Applying the same 2,000 kCal normalization logic: for 4 250mL bottles being $64, that’s ~8,200 kCal or about 127 kCal/$. So, yes that’s $15.60/d vs $10/d over 2,000 kCal. (See below for context)… If my math is wrong, I blame 4:45 AM. ;)

Thanks Nick! I did my calculation and found the organic whole macadamia nuts to be costing 9$ per 2000 cal, if I buy the 11.34 kg pack from Wholefoods in bulk! Which seems like a good deal! Although I wonder if the nuts would last that long and if they would even fit in my fridge 😄

That's like a small child's worth of macadamia. Haha. Not sure if it's still $9 if you need to purchase a second fridge.

Hi Nick, I have a very basic question but would you have a recommendation for the serving size if I'm trying to lose weight? Can I still have macadamias or are they too fatty? I love all the health benefits but I worry they may stall me...

I think it's about knowing yourself. If you're someone who thinks she may binge on nuts, then perhaps avoid them. I certainly wouldn't argue macadamia are the best weight loss keto tool. That said, I see no reason they couldn't be incorporated into your diet. If you want to do so, consider them not as a snack or side but as a garnish. Imagine taking 5 and crushing them and tossing on a salad or using to crust fish or blending into a pesto instead of pine nuts. Hopefully that helps somewhat. Good luck on your journey!

I love macadamia nuts but they are so expensive! Do you have any money saving tips? A favorite place top order from? Thanks!

I have the same question 😄. Also is the expensive price really worth for its health benefits?

Yes, this is true. They can cost a pretty penny. But if you buy in bulk it doesn't turn out to be that much. For example, a 3lb bag (Just Macadamia Nuts (Raw, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free, Healthy Fat, Wholesale Price, Halves and Pieces) on Amazon is $46, or 96 cents per ounce (1 ounce is ~ serving ~200kCal). Think about some other foods you usually buy and then covert to $/100kCal and see what comes out. I'd postulate that, in term of satiating nutrition for the buck, it's not horrible. In fact, as a thought experiment, let's say you eat a 2,000 kCal diet and get it from said macadamia nuts (obviously, that wouldn't be nutritionally complete, but humor me). That would be ~$10/d for food. I'd wager you already spend more than that.

I've never thought about it that way, good point! Thank you Nick!

Oh wow, great point Nick, ~$10/d for food doesn't seem that expensive indeed 😄. Are halves and pieces also as good or would you suggest whole nuts instead?

If you slice a nut in half, the two halves make one whole ;). It’s the same thing

This is great, I just thought they were like other nuts. I’m not sure I want to risk having them in the house though. Aren’t macadamias toxic for dogs?

They are. I certainly wouldn't feed them to your dog. I think Fido would be better off with a turkey leg bone or slice of steak. That said, I didn't write this thinking people would want to treat their dogs to macadamia nuts. Maybe next time we should add a disclaimer for pets.

I can confirm that accidents happen. We have two cats and I'm super careful when cooking with chocolate. I don't let them in the kitchen and keep all well hidden in my cupboard in a room they are not allowed to go. I think generally we need to be aware of all those foods: Xylitol, chocolate, macadamias, raisins (nit low-carb but you may have some at home too), etc. I wouldn't necessarily avoid them for this reason, just make sure they are well hidden.